Launch of new training course to improve access to mainstream health services

A new online training course aimed at improving access to mainstream health services for people with disabilities in regional, rural and remote Queensland will be launched by Queensland’s Australian of the Year, Dr Dinesh Palipana, during his keynote address at the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland Conference to be held at the Royal Pines RACV Resort on the Gold Coast on Thursday.

The two hour online training course, Access For All, has been created by CheckUP, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to better health for people and communities who need it most, and is part of a three year project funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Dr Palipana, a doctor at the Gold Coast University Emergency Department and disability advocate, is the Chair of the advisory group guiding the course development, and said educating health care providers was crucial to raise awareness of the access barriers to mainstream health care services experienced by people with disabilities.

“In my own journey with a spinal cord injury and quadriplegia, I realised a lot of the barriers and assumptions people face when accessing the health care system,” said Dr Palipana.

“I’ve had instances where life threatening issues have nearly been missed, where I’ve had difficulty physically accessing health care environments, and experienced complications in the health care system due to my social circumstances.

“It’s important that health care providers understand that the ways they may have traditionally approached a person with a disability don’t always work and they need to be treated as individuals.”

CheckUP Chief Executive Officer Ann Maree Liddy said they have worked collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders in creating the Access For All course to ensure the content was relevant and outcome focused, so that it helps health care providers break down barriers for people with disabilities to improve their access to mainstream healthcare.

“We consulted with consumers who have lived experience of disability, service providers, health professionals, disability networks and advocates to identify the common issues and challenges experienced by people with disabilities and how we can build a more accessible and inclusive health care system,” she said.

“It has become very apparent that while most health professionals and clinics are well meaning, many are inadvertently creating barriers or making assumptions about a person’s disability, which can lead to treatment errors or a reluctance for patients to seek treatment.”

Ms Liddy said that for some health professionals and practices, the training will reinforce the steps they are already taking, but for others it may prompt a transformation process for their organisation or service to be more accessible.

“It starts with education, and Access For All is an introductory step for health care providers to ensure they are aware of their obligations under the Human Rights and Disability Discrimination Acts to deliver culturally and clinically appropriate care, whilst providing inclusive, accessible health services for people with disabilities.”